Columnist Menno Blaauw wonders whether he will stand for election for the Works Council again.
"We meet, ask critical questions, complain that we are involved in the decision-making process too late." (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

Columnist Menno Blaauw had to decide whether he would stand for election for the Works Council again. Reasons enough to stay, was his conclusion.

Lees in het Nederlands

The Works Council elections are coming up again, as they do every three years. We will put forward our candidature by 6 October- or not. What should I do?

When I was nine years old, my parents sent me to a school in Bilthoven. They had seen an atypical kind of student leaving the school: open-mindedly asking questions, being critical and difficult for the teachers in a constructive way. That’s what they wanted for their own offspring.

Four years later I published my own school paper. And a little later I was in the students‘ parliament. We used to joke about the fact that we only got a say in matters when it came to the colour of the toilet paper. But that wasn’t the case. When the school proclaimed absenteeism regulations that were too strict, we took action and in good consultation with the board of directors, obtained the right of self-determination for the pupils in the upper secondary school.

This is also the case at TU Delft, where I have been involved in employee participation for some 25 years now. We meet, ask critical questions, complain that we are involved in the decision-making process too late, nag about the right of consent or the right to advise, and find it difficult to name our own successes or maintain contact with our supporters. Or so it seems sometimes.

‘Employee participation is as useful as we make it’

In recent years, things have been much better, with the Works Council lunches and the email newsflashes. And plenty of successes! We have been able to block Shell‘s ranking system for performance grading – instead, we grade performance on the basis of agreements made. We advocated for and obtained an ombudsman. We have a 'special leave' scheme about which Human Resource’s advisers and supervisors can no longer give different explanations should you want to go to the funeral of your partner’s foster father. Working with the unions, we managed to retain the Employee Objections Committee so that we do not have to go straight to the subdistrict court should a situation arise. For outsiders, TU Delft hides all its nice regulations behind netIDs and passwords, but the employee representation is proud of it!

There are plenty of issues that the Works Council will need to deal with in the next three years. The Executive Board wants to revise the performance evaluation system, and so do we. The anti-female, highly competitive tenure track system will be evaluated and revised. The cooperation with Erasmus is a brainteaser when it comes to practical details. Covid-19 is likely to cause us problems for years to come. Student numbers are skyrocketing. There is too little money for real estate.

I believe that the Executive Board has our best interests at heart as well as TU Delft’s. The Executive Board may sometimes be too high in its ivory tower - with a layer of deans beneath it who do their own thing - to see how their plans land on the shop floor given where all those practical aspects arise. This is the reason that the Executive Board needs the Works Council as a direct discussion partner just as much as the employees do. The same goes for deans, directors and the personnel committees.

So I will stand as a candidate again. Employee participation is as useful as we make it ourselves, and over the next three years there will be major issues that will give us ample opportunity to contribute to the success of the organisation and the enjoyment of our work.

Dr Menno Blaauw is IMS Manager at the Reactor Institute, after having worked there as a scientist for 20 years. He is also a member of the Works Council.